Former Sanibel mayor, Lee County commissioner Bob Janes passes
Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes, a former mayor of the City of Sanibel, passed away on Wednesday morning. He was 78.
“Bob worked tirelessly to serve Sanibel Island, his home, and all of Lee County in many capacities, not the least of which was during his 10 years as Commissioner,” said Michael Valiquette, chairman of PURRE (People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries).
Commissioner Janes had represented District 1 – Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral and Pine Island – since first elected in 2000. He was an advocate for mental health and corrections services, among other concerns, and worked actively for the purchase in 2006 of the Babcock Ranch property.
“I was honored to know Bob and work with him on a number of issues affecting Southwest Florida,” said Florida Congressman Connie Mack. “Bob was a true public servant in every sense of the word. I was always struck by his deep commitment to the people he represented in Cape Coral, Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva, and his dedicated service will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on our community.”
Born in Minneapolis, Minn., he received both undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and a second master’s from the University of Southern California. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he served for two years in the U.S. Army as a Commissioned Officer.
Much of Janes’ career was devoted to public service. He spent nearly 25 years in the public sector, both as an elected official and an appointed staff member. As an elected official, he was an Alderman with the Minneapolis City Council, Chairman of the Hennepin County (Minneapolis) Board of County Commissioners, and served on both the Sanibel Planning Commission and the Sanibel City Council, chairing the former and serving as mayor of the latter for three years.
In addition, Janes served on the Lee County Private Industry Council, Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Southwest Florida Work Force Development Board.
“We sat on City Council together,” former Sanibel mayor Wally Kain said, “and he enjoyed a special position with all of us by virtue of his long public experience. He was very respected. Sitting next to him was a privilege and a very stimulating experience. Every once in awhile, of course, we’d get into it – he could be provocative – but that’s fun and, again, stimulating. Working with him one got a sense of very high caliber thinking and intelligence. He was really special to be near.”
He also served as Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations for the Vice President in Washington, D.C. during the Nixon administration and as Assistant Administrator for Extramural Affairs.
As a County Commissioner, he served as the 4th Vice President and Chairman of the Health and Education Committee of the National Association of Counties. He was an Adjunct Professor in Public Administration at George Mason University in Virginia.
“This is a tragic loss, both for Sanibel and for Lee County,” Sanibel Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane pointed out. “I can’t begin to put into words all Bob’s done for our community and for Lee County over his long career of public service. He was a great public servant and will be truly missed. Our condolences go out to his family.”
Former J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge manager Lou Hinds said, “I will always remember Bobs glowing smile and his genuine devotion to public service. My dealings with Bob as mayor of Sanibel and then as County Commissioner were always fair and opened-minded. I especially liked our discussions concerning open space, wildlife and public recreation. Bob was not a man interested in what was politically expedient but what was in the common good. He will be missed by all.”
Valiquette continued, “Bob knew the importance of the environment and recognized how intrinsic water is to South Florida’s quality of life in every way. He was a devoted and loyal supporter of PURRE, and we will miss him. Our hearts go out to his family at this sad time, and I hope they are comforted to know that he made a difference to all whose lives he touched.”
Captiva Community Panel member Ron Gibson said, “Everybody probably wouldn’t agree, but I have to say I think Bob always had the Sanibel-Captiva community in his heart. His death will be a real loss to all of us. Every time I had to present anything to him, he always listened. He was fair, he was always understanding, and he really helped get the Community Panel going.”
“Plus,” he added with a smile, “he liked to eat Mexican food at La Casita when he was in town as much as I did!”
During the years he lived on Sanibel, Janes owned several businesses – Florida Real Estate Academy, Jolly Roger Motel and Letizia’s Continental Cuisine. His private sector experience included being a Vice President at the Sanibel SunTrust Bank. He also served on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross, Lee County Chapter.
“Our sympathy goes out to Lynda and his girls,” said Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham. “This is a very sad day for both Sanibel and Lee County. Bob was a wonderful public servant whose contributions to the city, the county and the state have been immense, and he courageously served this community to his very last day. In addition, I would like to say he was a very kind person.”
The city’s flags will be flown at half mast in his honor from today through the time of his services.
“It is a sad day for the environment and islands of Southwest Florida,” added Doris Holzheimer, Vice Chair of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District. “Bob was last on Captiva for the Blind Pass opening and supported our work in many ways. We appreciate so much what he did and will miss him.”
Janes is survived by his wife Lynda and their three adult children, Sandra, Mary and Susan.
Janes’ commission seat runs until 2012 and could be filled with an appointment by Governor Charlie Crist. But since qualifying for the November election must be completed by June and any appointee would be required to run, the governor may simply hold off until someone is elected in November to fill Janes’ term.
A memorial fund for Commissioner Bob Janes has been set up through the Conservation 20/20 Program. Donations will be used on the Bob Janes Preserve, a 5,620-acre preserve named in his honor. Donations may be sent in care of Cathy Olson, Conservation 20/20 Program, 3410 Palm Beach Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33916. Checks should be made out to “Lee County Board of County Commissioners.” Please write Bob Janes Memorial Fund in the note/memo section.